With the season coming to an abrupt end after Sunday's 24-14 playoff loss vs. the New York Giants, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden had to answer several questions about what the Bucs can do to improve for the 2008 season. He also was under fire about the possibility of a contract extension as he heads into next season in the last year of his current deal.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen will also be in the last year of his contract and is also looking for an extension. Gruden had the same issue when he was the head coach with the Oakland Raiders. With one year remaining on his deal in 2001, Gruden and agent Bob LaMonte were looking for a contract extension, but forced a trade to the Bucs after Raiders owner Al Davis refused to extend Gruden's contract and give him a raise.
Gruden helped guide the Bucs back to the playoffs and winning a NFC South division title, despite having 13 players on injured reserve. His offense improved in multiple categories this season compared to 2006 including average points per game (11.9 to 19.6), offensive touchdowns (20 to 33), total offense (29th to 18th), rushing (28th to 11th) and passing (26th to 16th).
Gruden also won five more games this season and captured the third division championship since becoming the head coach in Tampa Bay. He stated that he is content with going into 2008 under his current deal on Monday.
"I don't even know really the status of my contract other than I will fulfill the contract that I signed," Gruden said. "I'm going to work as hard as I can to help this team get back to the Super Bowl and all those issues will take care of themselves. As I said earlier this year, this is the best job in football. I'm fortunate to have the job and content on working hard at it."
There's another issue that is looming for Gruden's staff as several assistant coaches are coming to the end of their contracts. That list includes defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett and running backs coach/assistant head coach Art Valero.
Gruden did address whether he believes he will lose some of the coaches off his staff in the off-season.
"I don't know that. I will just say that our staff did a tremendous job and those things will be addressed here," Gruden said. "As you know it's a tough time of year, but I'm proud of my staff and we will update it as time goes on."
He does expect to have Kiffin back on his staff in 2008. Kiffin has been rumored to be a candidate for the defensive coordinator position in Oakland, where his son, Lane, is the head coach.
"Yes, I do and I hope so," Gruden said. "Again, there are a lot of things that have to be worked out as you know, but Monte Kiffin is a good friend, a great coach and a hell of a leader."
Finally, if Gruden doesn't get a contract extension in the off-season, he will head into 2008 as a lame duck coach. That means that he could struggle luring in new coaches on his staff to replace any that he might lose. It also makes it difficult for Gruden to bring in free agents that want to play for him, who might choose to go somewhere else because it's not a sure thing that he will be in Tampa Bay after next season.
Gruden feels that he has done enough during his tenure with the Bucs to get a contract extension. Sort of.
"I don't really care to discuss my situation very much this morning. I believe it will all take care of itself. When it does we will let you know," Gruden said. "I'm very confident that you get what you deserve in this business and I'm just excited about the future of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the accomplishments that we had this year."
He also isn't worried about if his success this season warrants a contract extension. Gruden is just concentrating on continuing to work hard and improve the talent on the Bucs roster.
"I don't get into all these things. People are going to have their own opinions on those things. All I can say is that I'm very proud of the fact that I was able to give it my best shot," Gruden said. "From a health standpoint I've been blessed in that way and I'm really proud of the progress we have made. Whether it's good enough or not for a contract or what it warrants I really don't care at this point. I'm just confident that we are going to continue to work as hard as we can to continue get our football team in a position to win a World Championship."
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